Our next stopping place in the solar system is Mars. Mars is named after the Roman God of War, it’s also called the Red planet after it’s distinct red colour, which can be made out – even to the naked eye! It’s a terrestrial planet with some similarities to Earth, for example it’s relatively temperate, liquid water exists on the planet and the presence of two permanent ice caps at it’s poles.
Facts about Mars
- Diameter: 6,752km (0.533 x Earth’s).
- Mass: 0.107 x Earth.
- 1 Mars day = 24hrs 40mins
- 1 Mars year = 687 Days
- Mars has two small moons.
- Mars atmosphere consists 96% Carbon Dioxide with traces of Argon, Nitrogen, Oxygen and Water vapour.
- The high iron ore content of the rocks and soil is to blame for Mars distinct red colour.
Mars has two small moons Phobos and Diemos, these moons are thought to be asteroids captured in Mars gravity rather than being left overs from the planets formation. Not much is known about these worlds and no probes have managed to successfully land on either moons, although this has been attempted with the Soviet Phobos missions Phobos 1 failed en route to Mars, Phobos 2 made it to Mars but contact was lost after it achieved Mars orbit.
Phobos is names after the Greek God Phobos son of Ares (Mars) and personified fear. Diemos was the twin bother of Phobos and personified terror.
With Mars being named after a God of War there was a lot to inspire Holst when he created his piece for Mars. This is arguable the best of the Planets pieces that he composed and with it’s powerful and dark theme is definitely war like and timeless.
Of all the planets, Mars is probably the planet most visited by our probes and is most explored. Our fascination with the red planet and our unwavering belief that there is some kind of life on Mars keeps us going back. It’s likely that a manned mission to Mars will happen withing my lifetime – I certainly hope so, because it’s this adventure that will inspire people of all ages to re-connect with exploration and to start wondering again.
But at this time there are five spacecraft orbiting Mars (2001 Mars Odyssey, Mars Express, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, MAVEN and Mars Orbiter Mission) and two on the surface (Mars Exploration RoverOpportunity and the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity).
At this time there are no other planets with as much activity around or on them and the only other object in the solar system with an object on it which is operation is a comet. This all means that we’able to get stunning images of Mars surface and sample the soil for chemistry and signs of life – even bacteria.
Other (spooky) stuff:
With the human race so keen to find life on Mars it can only be imagined the kind of excitement caused when Viking 1 captured the picture of what seems to be a human face on Mars when it was looking for a landing site for the lander on July 25th 1976 (Picture on the right).
More recent pictures such as the one taken in 2001 show a much less spooky image of the rock formation. But even if we don’t think it’s a face – it seems to be a very regular formation. This formation has in the past and still causes debate on how natural it is and what it could really be or mean.
The surface of Mars is rocky, sandy and very inhospitable as these images show.
But even though this planet is millions of miles away, many say they feel the surface looks familiar somehow, this could be that it looks like any arid desert on Earth. But many of the surface features are familiar and wouldn’t look out of place on Earth.
Whether there is life on Mars or not, whether there is a mans face on Mars or not, the red planet will continue to be an object of curiosity. Mars will almost certainly be the base for our fist colony outside of Earth, with scientists thinking about how to make Mars habitable.
The only real question is this – when will a human set foot on Mars?